Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Pillow Book: 26. the Public Service Commission

26. The Public Service Commission

xxxThey have seen us all, these six men who interview the brightest in Singapore to decide on scholarships. Civil servants, military officers, and business leaders, they could have sat in that formidable row for thirty years, just as we, alone on the other side of the long table, are in a certain sense interchangeable. The idea does not diminish them or us.
xxxBut I am asking their support for changing me. I am asking for the Lee Kuan Yew Scholarship to become a poet. I explain it is time to develop more than factories, battalions and public housing, it is time to develop a language of our own.
xxxThey are not impressed. They can see through me. They know that I will quit Singapore for the States, that I am a queer one.
xxxWhat they cannot see is that working in a rented room in Queens I write by the light of Singapore, a tall fluorescent streetlamp with its cloud of flying insects. Rallying my troops with Matisse’s fighting words—to be a force that cannot be dismissed—I fear that I am too small to survive. Even when I dream, like Keats, to be among the English poets, I am making into an Abbey the mysterious power station in which my father worked for thirty years but I have never seen.


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